Saturday, February 24, 2007

sweet melissa

Yesterday I had the pleasure of picking up the very first Harbor Seal pup of the season. In fact, it actually isn't even Harbor Seal season yet. Elephant Seal season only officially started yesterday and usually they get a good month or so to themselves. So my Harbor's a preemie, for sure. She's even wearing her beautiful fluffy lanugo coat (which is normally shed in utero). But she's fairly fat and sassy (8 kg and bitey) so my hopes are high. Since they're both looking at a long stay in the hospital, I found it quite fitting to name my seal in my second cousin's honor. And so I give you sweet Melissa.

I get my updates on the bipedal Melissa third hand so I can't say for sure how things are going. It does sound like "brain dead" may have been a premature diagnosis. The doctors are performing tests they wouldn't be doing if the situation was totally bleak. So again I'm allowing myself to hope. I was right about the feeding tube, however, so obviously her condition could be better. I take great comfort in knowing that Melissa's grandmother and great grandmother are about as close to God as you can get without wearing wings. If anyone can manifest a miracle, it's those two.

My own Melissa gave me a humbling scare last night. She started coughing and spitting up after her midnight feed. I was pretty calm until she expelled her electrolytes through her nose. The vet tech that I woke up assured me that I was not an evil, incompetent seal killer. Apparently it was more a burp gone wrong than a problem with my technique. Still, I was unsettled. Then Erik reminded me he once laughed so hard he shot milk out his nose (all over his brother's pizza, no less). Amused, but no less anxious. Only this morning, when I found her sleeping peacefully, did I allow myself to take a breath.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

free at last

TV is my friend. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

We all love TV in some way, though some of us only love to hate it. Personally, I embrace the kitsch. I like to think of my time spent in front of the tube as some sort of sociology project. After all, anthropologists from the faraway future would be fascinated with this window into our culture. Would they notice, as I have, that people on sit coms seldom ever close the front door? Would they question why Lucy and Desi couldn't share a bed but Fred and Wilma could? Would they wonder where the Brady kids relieved themselves, since their bathroom lacked a toilet?

TV has shaped me, though not always in the best ways. Physically I'm a little bit softer, mentally I'm a tad shallower, but honestly I think I'd be worse off without it. TV connected me to others in my generation. Strangers in adolescence, we now identify each other with catch phrases and obscure character references. We know that it's never to late if you care enough. We love it when a plan comes together. And we're certain that knowing is half the battle. We wonder where's the beef? And our bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R... We live for the day we get to ask a guy in a Rolls if he has any Grey Poupon. We feel for the woman who has fallen and can't get up. And we learned it from watching you, Dad, we learned it from watching you. And, I may be alone in this, but I think it's ironic how much more delicious my brain looks on drugs. In any case, you wouldn't like us when we're angry. We might just call on the power of Grayskull...

Like any friend, TV has occasionally disappointed me. Ted Turner still owes me twenty dollars for the time I sat through that horrible action adventure movie that I believe starred Judd Nelson. I kept thinking, "surely this will get better" as it grew increasingly worse. I remember deciding that the Turner Network Television station ought to reimburse me for my suffering. I calculated my damages based upon my hourly wage ($13) and the time spent rooting for Judd (90 minutes). I mean, seriously, whoever decided this movie was worthy of air time should be fired.

And TV has stood me up. How many times have I fallen for a new show only to have it abandon me mid season? Sometimes I see the writing on the wall. Reunion clearly was going nowhere fast. That cancellation was a mercy killing. Other times I'm dumbfounded. Smith was really, really good. I'm still hoping someone will pick it up.

More often, TV has stood by me. I remember the time I told Erik that Oprah was my friend. He immediately began mocking my delusions of grandeur. Mere moments later, in her opening monologue, Oprah vindicated me. She addressed the audience (including those at home) and proclaimed us all her friends. And who has been more loyal to me than my lifelong pal, Bob Barker? What would a sore throat be without the opportunity to bid on fabulous prizes? It just isn't any fun to vomit if you don't get to watch a Showcase Showdown...

Today, TV has freed me. Tonight I spent the last hour ever with my friends from the O.C. I no longer need to hide this guilty pleasure. I no longer need to wonder if people with think I named my pet after a washed up teen drama. I have one less show to juggle on Thursday nights, one less Season Pass to manage on my Tivo. Free at last. Why, you ask, didn't I free myself sooner? After all, even Mischa Barton jumped ship. You know, it's just the kind of friend I am. Loyal to the bitter end. Why did I get hooked in the first place? That's a better question. For this I thank blame my brother. He sucked me in when he lived here, convincing me the show was at least worthwhile as a target for our ridicule. And so it was. But beneath our disdain grew dedication.

As I delight in this feeling of lightness I have, freed of the chains I placed on myself, I must admit I wonder if I watch a wee bit too much TV. I have never calculated my screen time because honestly I don't want to know. I'm sure I'd be appalled. I've thought about cutting back, for sure. Especially after Ozzy didn't win last season's Survivor. I was so miffed, I thought about walking away. And you know how I felt about Lost leaving me hanging for so long. It took me a couple weeks to decide to wade back into that water. Now, of course, I'm as hooked as ever. Go Charlie Cancer, go. In the end, though, I don't see the harm in two old friends spending time together. Surely the damage is already done. I'm desensitized to violence, I have the attention span of a gnat. What good would leaving do me now?

And so I thank you tonight, Television, thank you for being a friend. We've traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Given my historical (lack-of) performance as a pen pal, I am not surprised to find I have many blog entries in draft format and yet have found none of them ready for posting recently. These are the electronic equivalent to the dusty, musty notes I occasionally come across in my collection of crap. They are in my handwriting but they're no longer from me. They're from a girl I used to be, usually about a boy I used to like (or grew to hate), written to a friend I seldom talk to but still adore.

Today in particular I am glad I haven't yet posted about my fairly boring misadventures as of late. A major clean up effort, a few failed seal rescues, a tardy attempt at something romantic for Valentine's day... they all wither in comparison to the significance of the news I received last night.

My second cousin, my cousin's teenage daughter, was in a car accident yesterday. After hitting some ice on the road, she's now, I'm told, brain dead. Her body's still functioning, so she's trapped in a world of feeding tubes and bed pans. She should be going to prom, filling out college applications. She should be worried about teen pregnancy, not bed sores.

So I am humbled. My life is so unreasonably happy and trivial. And I am heartbroken. I've actually never met my second cousin. Though I hold her mom dear in my heart, I'm sure to her I'm still a freckle faced pre-teen with bad hair and no boobs, wearing Izod shirts and Toughskins jeans that do anything but flatter. Our families are so separated (by years and miles), that I wonder if I even deserve to feel the sadness that I do. And yet, we're still connected (by our folks, by the phone) and so I join the McGowans in their grief.

Today I hug my husband a little bit closer as I am reminded how unpredictable life can be. I am grateful for all I have and sorry for all that's lost. My body may be in California, but my heart is in Pennsylvania, holding vigil by the bedside of a cousin.

Monday, February 12, 2007

in a house with a mouse

I would not, could not, in a house. I would not, could not, with a mouse. I do not like to watch things die. I do not like it, I can't lie.

Yet when my kitties found the mouse, running, hiding, in my house, did I take the cats away? Did I tell them not to play? Or did I grab my own flash light, to help them find the mouse at night?

Lucky for him, we were all too slow. The little mouse was on the go. Hiding somewhere amongst my shoes. Singing, quietly, his little mouse blues.

And so I sit here in my house, that I must share with a mouse. I wonder how he'll ever leave. Will he live or will he bleed? If OC finds him, I'll never know, unless he leaves me a bit of toe. If Blackie finds him, he'll soon tire. He doesn't like his toys once they expire.

If only the mouse had been a bird. Then his fear I would have heard. He'd be bigger, slower, and easier to trap. I could have freed him and continued my nap. Alas, the mouse is every bit a rodent. Here in a flash, gone in a moment.

I'm rooting for you, little guy. I'm sure you also wish you could fly. Though we may never meet again, I'd like you to know I am your friend. I understand you'll have to go, but please don't pooh in my Danskos.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

63 things i love about my mom

Growing up, I never really thought of my mom as an actual person. She was just my mom. Not a girl with parents of her own. Not a kid with goals and dreams. Not a woman with worries and fears. She would share stories of her childhood, sure, but they seemed to be just that. Stories. Fictional tales of a world that supposedly existed long before I did.

Even now, it seems weird to use this picture on my blog, as it's my family before they were my family. This is my sister's first birthday which means I am just that twinkle you see in my dad's eye.

Sometimes, when I was little, I would catch my mom spacing out at the dinner table. Her eyes glazed over, focused on some faraway point where her children weren't complaining about vegetables and her husband wasn't discussing his work day. In this place, I imagined, there were no dishes to wash and nobody had their elbows on the table. There wasn't clutter on the stairs or laundry to put away. It made me sad to find my mother visiting her happy place, because I always figured I wasn't there.

Now that I'm older, I sometimes catch myself spacing out. I find that my own happy place is pathetically pedestrian. I realize, then, that I may have been wrong about my mother's mysterious destination. I suspect that instead of fantasizing about some hunky guy and a candlelit dinner, that my mom's daydreams may have been much more domestic. In all likelihood her thoughts were still on laundry and clutter. Which makes me even sadder.

My mom was, and in many ways is, the center of my universe. She's that voice in my head that scolds me when I've done something foolish or cruel. I hear her in my laugh and see her in my mirror. She consoles me when I'm sick, cheers me up when I am down. And though she no longer makes my meals or tucks me into bed, she still takes care of me. To me, it seems, she'll always be a mother, though I've come to realize she's so much more.

I simply can't imagine a world without my mother. So today, as she completes her 63rd trip around the sun, I give you 63 reasons I love my mom:
  1. She had four children. And no epidurals.
  2. She married my dad (even though his sisters warned her not to) and stayed married (even when it wasn't easy to do).
  3. She taught me that it is important to air out your crotch sometimes. It was a disturbing thought, imagining my mother going commando to bed, but it was solid advice.
  4. She gave me my sad hair and my wild eyebrows. I hate them both but I love them because they remind me of her.
  5. She has a tendency to hide new purchases from my father. Though she makes her own money and he has resigned himself to her shopping, still she feels compelled to spare him the mental strain of calculating how much something is worth and wondering why she had to have it. I find it especially endearing that she particularly employs this trick with furniture, sneaking large pieces into the basement. She brings them into the general population weeks later, after he's grown accustomed to walking past them on his way to fetch the Diet Coke.
  6. She once had a dog named Peanut who met his untimely demise after all-too-successfully chasing a car. Though my parents only had Peanut for a couple of weeks, she speaks of him often and fondly. Perhaps this is because he wasn't around long enough to develop bad habits like the rest of our dogs?
  7. She also loves Ginger (a.k.a. Blackie and Snickers), though nobody else does. That cat has peed on too many surfaces to count but Mom doesn't hold it against her. She doesn't see that cat as one big walking bladder. She loves her for her soft fur and generous purr.
  8. Though she probably wouldn't do it these days, she's been known to eat peanut butter straight from the jar and brown sugar right out of the box.
  9. She now eats quite healthfully. No matter where she's at, she always has the soup and salad and she starts each day with oatmeal and coffee. It's boring, I know, but it means she'll be around to be my mom for a long time.
  10. She has a tendency to misspeak, though she doesn't always recognize it. I especially enjoyed when she told me, "I don't not dislike you." She also insists it is "gay radar," not "gadar." And I love how she swears that "drugs started in California."
  11. She can sew. She used to make quilts and taper our jeans. She even made entire outfits, though I could have done without those matching jumpers with the zippers up the back that my sister and I peed our pants in.
  12. She doesn't let labor get in the way of her household duties. She was doing laundry when I came along and made breakfast for the family before Kevin's birth.
  13. With the help of our next door neighbor, she stole the best cat ever, Frisbee, from the pound. He was too new and not yet eligible for adoption. But he fit nicely in Julie's purse.
  14. As a kid, she threw her rubber band doll out the window honestly thinking she could run down three flights of stairs and catch it. It broke. She also barfed cookie dough up those same stairs. She had to clean it up.
  15. She used to wet the bed and, in the morning, she'd suffer dire consequences from her rather strict parents. As a result, she was always very understanding with the nocturnal failures of her own offspring.
  16. She keeps a mental tally of all the times my dad doesn't flush the toilet (you know, if it's yellow, let it mellow...) and uses each one as a justification to buy a new Longaberger basket.
  17. She used to drink a lot of cheap wine. One of my favorite memories of early adulthood involves sharing a box of pink wine with my folks in our hot tub.
  18. She doesn't drink anymore. She also gave up smoking way back when.
  19. She's a clever shopper. She used to use my brothers as place holders in long bargain basement lines. Once an annoyed woman in line behind us remarked snippishly that "it must be nice to have someone to wait in line for you," which my mother answered with a simple, "yes, it is."
  20. She's an equally savvy diner. When told by a waiter that he could not serve the salad dressing on the side, she suggested he should, "try."
  21. She's got a pretty great garden. She even makes her own compost.
  22. She was recycling long before it was cool. I was mortified when she would stop at the side of the road and pick up someone else's aluminum can. I knew it was good for the environment and my dad was thrilled (every can was a nickel), but I was a teenager and couldn't get behind it. To this day she has to work harder to recycle than I ever do. She doesn't cash in the nickels anymore, she just does it for the planet, fondly recalling her participation in the very first Earth Day.
  23. She never had her ears pierced. She said she didn't need any more holes in her head and she had a pretty great collection of clip on earrings. (Do those even exist anymore?) Then one day she came home from a trip with her old college friends and they were pierced.
  24. She can play piano. She used to play "The Entertainer" and the next door neighbor and I would dance.
  25. She's very forgiving. We've given her a lot to forgive along the way.
  26. She once told me snails like salt. While I would have preferred not to be a pawn in her war against garden pests, I'm glad she didn't tell me the truth about my role until I was old enough to handle it.
  27. She once told my brother, when sending him for a haircut, to get "the normal," assuming the barber would know exactly what she meant. All she's ever wanted was for her family to be normal.
  28. She's quick with the comebacks. She was once asked by a friend's son why she had such fat legs. She promptly asked him why he had such a big mouth.
  29. She still has a bit of her east coast accent. Her friend Patti recalls thinking, on the day they met, that her name was "Freon." She also still drinks "witer" while everyone else is having water. She has, however, dropped the southern accent she picked up in her Peanut days when she used to urge the women in labor and delivery to "poosh."
  30. Of all our childhood toys, she kept the Care Bears (because they were "nice") and ditched the more collectible Barbies, Star Wars and Fisher-Price.
  31. She's a dedicated shopper. She got me a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas when they were still hot (which, ironically, also had bad hair - she picked it because it was "different") and she made sure Kevin had every He-man ever made, even Prince Adam.
  32. She made the best chocolate cake for my birthday once. It was a bundt cake with a tunnel of fluffy chocolate chiffon icing.
  33. She's always saying "that's enough of that behavior" and she refers to people she doesn't like as "creeps."
  34. Though I've mentioned it before, I love how she summed up The Crying Game with one sentence: "They must have just been doing blow jobs or something."
  35. She's got great siblings. Her brother taught me how to back dive and her sister was particularly supportive during the chaos of my own sister's wedding.
  36. She found peace in her own life when she realized everyone's family has drama and nobody's normal.
  37. She always buys me great gifts. They're always heavy or fragile so she has to deliver them in person. I particularly love my walrus sculpture and my glass pig.
  38. On road trips, she would always second the motion when a bathroom stop was suggested. And, as I mentioned before, she keeps track of all the good restrooms in her vicinity.
  39. She plays tennis with really old ladies. Often they don't play for long stretches of time because somebody has died and they're looking for a fourth. My dad doesn't play tennis with her much since she scratched his cornea.
  40. When visiting me in college, she joined me in my very uphill bike ride to campus. I gloated in the glory of significantly besting her speed only to later discover she'd been riding on a flat tire.
  41. She would always make my brothers "get" her neck (something they're traumatized by to this day) and she would claim the only ottoman as her own, passively defending it with her stubbly leg hairs. I'm not sure why I find these memories so endearing but I do. They are such a slice of our every day life.
  42. She really didn't mean to make me look like Jenni Africa and once she realized that she had, she began rinsing out the perm solution immediately.
  43. She helped me sell a lot of Girl Scout cookies. I still have the precious stuffed Kookabura to prove it. In fact, Mom was a Scout herself for 12 whole years.
  44. Knowing how much I hated that pig dog, she once set my ATM password to RAGS.
  45. She gives everything a nickname. Our pets, for example, have no fewer than three names each. She also names buildings (such as the Devil's Whore House and the Penny Pincher's Dream) and vehicles (such as Big Red and his predecessors, Brownie and Greenie). In her honor, we kids have dubbed her gazebo the PSG (Pot Smoking Gazebo).
  46. She's not afraid to try new things. In addition to the ear piercing, her nursing school buddies have taken her river rafting. Meanwhile, my sister has sent her up in a hot air balloon, and my brother has convinced her to buy her own ipod.
  47. She cheated to win a scavenger hunt hosted by her Spanish teacher during a field trip to Tijuana. Apparently you really don't need any Spanish to navigate the border city.
  48. She makes horribly bland Mexican food and she hates beans. For years I thought I hated Mexican food. It turns out I just hate my mom's version. On the other hand, she makes a great Beef Stroganoff, complete with festive orange slices.
  49. She's always my cheerleader, encouraging me even when I'm laughably unrealistic or just not trying very hard. She never chides me for giving up, for eating poorly or drinking too much, as she assures me it took her more than 50 years to defeat these same demons.
  50. She would bring me flat Coke and soft boiled eggs when I was sick. And she always let me watch The Price is Right.
  51. She was always a nurse, even when writing excuse notes for school. I never had a cold. I always had an Upper Respiratory Infection.
  52. I love her handwriting. She writes in the kind of cursive that is now almost totally dead and she often underlines things. I find her handwriting in unexpected places, such as the ancient Campbell's cookbook she let me have. Next to Pork Chops a l'Orange? "goo"is immediately replaced by "great".
  53. Other notes I love include the one about Lucy, who was recently re-evicted from my mother's house because "she barks and pees in her sleep" and the one inside an extra copy of "Get a Financial Life" she apparently never did return, explaining that her, "daughter already knows everything in this book".
  54. She has been known to swipe a pen or two in her day (a passion of mine). And she often passes the good ones on to me. I love my light up smiley face pen ("with no cap," she explained, "because it's stolen") and the one that looks just like a fish. She also shares goodies acquired legitimately from eager drug reps. She recently gave me the whale shaped Synagis soap dispenser I admired in her bathroom a year ago.
  55. She rewards bad behavior. Even though she was recently miffed at my then-sick sister, she ultimately brought her dinner (a pineapple pizza) to make peace and spare her an unpleasant drive in the snow. When I negotiated the delivery she wouldn't commit to the good deed. She only said, "we'll see." But I knew I had succeeded because in mom-speak if it isn't a "no" then it's a "yes."
  56. She's finally given up keeping bunnies as pets. We had one when I was little that was so unruly we sent it to Pet-a-Pet Farm. And later, in San Diego, she tried again but Rags was always busting in to the pen. She had a few more in Washington, but there they were just lonely and cold. I think, like my snails, she was making peace with something from her childhood. Her father raised rabbits and as a family they ate them. She always said that they didn't want to know when they were eating Thumper.
  57. When my brother Billy used to bite us, she would encourage us to bite him back. If we were crying too hard, she would do it for us.
  58. She loves to do the Jumble but she often cheats. She uses her electronic Scrabble word finder to help her unscramble the letters. Of course, she's always bummed when the clue is more than seven letters long, because then the machine can't help.
  59. She's vastly improved her Scrabble game. In fact, she often wins and almost always beats me. Apparently I suck at Scrabble.
  60. She always used to threaten, when we were already crying, that she would "give you something to cry about," but she never did hit us with that dreaded wooden spoon.
  61. Even though it was against the progressive Montessori-type rules, she would take young Kevin his lunch if he forgot to bring it to elementary school. I wonder sometimes if she regrets not teaching him to suffer the consequences of his actions as he seems to be having difficulties leaving the nest.
  62. She used to insist in my college days that I needed to have a kitchen table. I think it was more of that "normal" business. Normal people have kitchen tables. She even went as far as to buy me a set once. It was a hideous 70's yellow ("in perfect condition," she protested as I spray painted it black...) and I ultimately dumped it during a move. She has finally given up, I believe, as she never complains when forced to dine off my coffee table while sitting on my couch.
  63. She once put a pussy willow up her nose, a story she told me after I put a button up my own.
Happy Birthday, Mom.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

i miss him already

He was my oldest and dearest friend. Couldn't be sweeter. Always there for me - in good times and bad. Every birthday, every study session, every broken heart. Of course he was at my wedding. You should see the pictures. We grew up together. From lollipops to mimosas, he was everywhere and everything. And our favorite holidays - Halloween and Easter - I can't think of a single one spent without him.

And yet it's over. At least for now. I guess you could say we're on a break. I need some time to think things over. Do I really love him or is he just a habit? Love is not supposed to hurt, after all, and, really, in many ways he's just dragging me down.

This doesn't have to be forever. I just need some space of my own, a chance to clear my head. I'll admit, it hasn't been easy. The first couple days, I mourned him. I was inconsolable, certain this break up would be a catastrophe. Ready to beg his forgiveness and take him back.

Now, a few days later, I feel stronger. More focused. I can see the insidious way he weaved himself into every aspect of my life. Frankly, I'm appalled. And finally, just possibly, I can imagine a future without him. Or at least without so much of him.

Still, I'm going to miss you, sugar.